My Day Job: What Did You Do Last Weekend?

I mostly write about photography on my blog, but today I’m writing a little about my career and what I do in the U.S. Navy. But don’t click away just yet, as you can see by the image on the left of the page, I’m not leaving out photography.

On a day-to-day basis, I am a Fire Controlman in the Navy. By definition, I operate, maintain, and repair weapon systems. I’ve even been around long enough now that I supervise those performing the job described above. Am I a fire fighter? Yes and no. At sea, there is no fire department to call and every Sailor on board any ship must be trained to fight fires, repair damage, and contain and stop flooding to keep their ship afloat. The reason that the USS Cole (DDG 67) is afloat today is because of the Sailors that were on board the day she was attacked. They saved their ship. But specifically, Fire Controlmen operate, maintain, and repair weapon systems. Damage Controlmen are the Navy’s fire fighters.

Our ship recently conducted it’s Combat Systems trials to test out the performance of it’s weapon systems and ensure that they worked as advertised. I was presented the opportunity to get topside and shoot some photos during a missile firing that I wasn’t involved in. So I grabbed my D90 and headed topside. Thus the image you see above.

We also had a team of photogs and videographers on board to capture the action. These guys work for NAVAIR and they brought all of their Gucci gear on board. They captured the image you see to the left. To get stills, they had a total of 6 Canon 1D Mark IIs and they had 7 killer Sony HD video cameras, including a high-speed video camera. They did a fantastic job!

Check out the video they put together below!

One of my Shipmates asked me if I would like to work for an organization like that doing what they do. While it would seem cool, I don’t think it would be as fulfilling as one might think. For starters, there is a lot of luck involved in getting these shots. The missiles and projectiles from our weapon systems move insanely fast and capturing them as stills and video can be somewhat luck.

For example, the 1D Mark IIs are triggered with a TTL cable trigger system (our AN/SPY-1D radar system renders Pocket Wizards completely useless) and when missiles are about to go, the guy with the trigger blindly squeezes and prays. (Kind of like an insurgent with an AK-47.) All of the cameras are set up on heavy duty tripods and are weighted down with sand bags. The 1D Mark IIs are housed in small Pelican cases that have been customized with pieces of plexiglass and a few other items. The video cameras are housed in a custom metal case with plexiglass on the end with the lens. In between firings a team member goes out with Windex and paper towels to clean the housings. (Pretty sure I’m positive the new guy has to do that.)

Personally, I would get bored with that job in a very short time. I would rather CREATE images based on ideas that I have come up with in my head. Doing the same setup for the same subject over and over and over again would burn me out. (On the other side of the coin, playing with cameras, glass, and Photoshop all day would keep me moderately happy.) There are a couple of firsts every now and then, as the photo above captures the first time that the U.S. Navy has ever fired four missiles simultaneously at four targets during Combat Systems trials.

So there you have it… a little bit more information about what I do on a daily basis, other than photography. I hope you enjoyed the insight on my life as a U.S. Navy Sailor. Have a great day and I’ll see you back here tomorrow for your regularly scheduled photography post.


18 thoughts on “My Day Job: What Did You Do Last Weekend?

  1. Equally impressive or more so than the Cole, was the courage and bravery of the Sammy B crew. She struck a mine in the Persian Gulf back in ?1988?. Had it not been for the tight teamwork & training she would have split in two and sunk. Not a soul was lost and she was successfully repaired and returned to service. I couldn’t believe the damage that small mine inflicted. The value of the training our Navy goes though, yesteryear and today, was proven on the Cole and Sammy B. Thanks Steven and Merry Christmas!

  2. cool shots and story!
    interestingly, i was aboard the sterrit, cg 31 back in ’79.
    i was ‘loaned’ out as a fireroom supervisor to steam up to long beach and off-load ammo.
    nice site!

    • Bill,

      Interestingly enough, our CMC was a Quartermaster on CG31 during that time. DDG-104 will be his final tour, so his first and last ship in the Navy will have been STERETT.

      Take care and Happy New Year!


  3. Found you via blog.

    Hey, too cool. I would LOVE to do what you do (at least once or twice, anyway!!)

    But, did you not document the video guys doing their thing? I would have found it interesting to see them filming, their gear setup, etc?

    Anyway, thanks for the insight. Makes me feel bored with my routine!! (LOL)


    • SAS,

      Unfortunately I didn’t have a whole lot of time to cover the video guys. I was super busy making sure the system was running smoothing and I was too involved in most of the firing events to have a whole lot of time to shoot (photos).

      Take care and Happy New Year!


  4. As a former squid I can attest to the excellent job the DC’s and all crew members do during an emergency. The USS Kinkaid survived a collision at sea coming back from the Gulf in ’89, and I’m here as a result of the training and bravery of our crew. I don’t miss the canoe club, but wouldn’t trade the experience for anything in the world.


  5. Now this is cool. The Navy is awesome enough as it is, mix photography in, and WHOO! I have the upmost respect for Navy guys who do this full time, in often unfavorable conditions (to say the least). Very cool that you toss in photography. Hats off to you, sir, and all the U.S Navy.
    Keep shooting (pictures)!


  6. Interesting blog. I served six years with the Army doing intel work. I now do all sort of other stuff, including making all-natural skincare products. Who knew? Career paths can get all sorts of twisted…I am getting great feedback on my product (while still in its early stages) so that’s rewarding.

    Happy New Year to you,

    Hooked Studios Skincare

  7. Hello Stephen, I am robert and my blog is at I would like for you to stop by and view my blog in hopes that before you decide to get out you may want to read my book. I use to teach the TAP classes for DOD. Now i teach in civilian life. (Marine Corps retired).:-):-) Anyway, plesae link my blog up to your blogs and also tell all the other guys abroad ship about my book. They can go to my website an order it there. Take care, until then.


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  10. Pingback: Killer Camera Setup! « Stephen's Photography Tips

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